‘The Equalizer’ Review

The Equalizer movie poster

“Having OCD Was Probably Never So Awesome.”

Boyhood ran for 2 hours and 45 minutes, and after awhile it felt as if Richard Linklater had it in for me because what started out as an interesting theatrical experiment devolved into a bizarre and inhumane form of punishment.

By way of comparison, Antoine Fuqua’s The Equalizer ran for an hour and half, yet felt significantly shorter.

Now, to be fair, no people are killed in Boyhood–though there should have been at least one death, especially during what I like to call the ‘chainsaw blade scene’–but the violence in The Equalizer more often than not happened to people that deserved it, so it came off as cathartic, as opposed to gratuitous (which isn’t to say that there wasn’t a lot of it).

In fact, it’s odd to see a movie where the audience is actively rooting for someone to kill someone else, which wasn’t uncommon (at least at the showing I caught).

Part of what made Denzel Washington’s portrayal of Robert McCall so interesting is that the character has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which means that he’s developed quite a few repetitive behaviors and rituals, the point being that his condition was what made him such an efficient killer.

I have read reviews that compared this tendency to that of Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbach) in the BBC’s Sherlock, though it’s not a valid comparison because in the case of Sherlock you’re watching a representation of a mental process Holmes is going through to arrive at a certain conclusion, while in the case of McCall you’re looking at him plot the motion of what physical action he’s about to commit to.

The Equalizer, based upon a CBS television series that aired in 1985, starring Edward Woodward, moves briskly and almost feels like a guilty pleasure of sorts, which isn’t a bad thing.

 

 

‘The Dead Lands’ Trailer

I have no idea who Toa Fraser, the director of The Dead Lands, is, or why he’s so acclaimed, but I have to say that I like the trailer.  Definitely getting a Once Were Warriors vibe, combined with a bit of Quest For Fire with the added bonus that for some reason I connect the title to the Dream Academy song, Lowlands (I love those synaptic connections to nowhere).

‘Fetching Cody’ Review

Fetching Cody

“Fetching Cody Is An Unconventional Story About How Far One Man Is Willing To Go For Love.”

I tend to enjoy movies about time travel, which I have to admit that I like because I find it interesting the way filmmakers often try to fudge the (theoretical) science.  I have also come to notice that there are roughly two type of time travel movie:  The first, exemplified by films like Deja Vu, try to explain how time travel is possible within the framework of the movie.  And sure, more often than not the explanation is little more than techno-babble, but it tends to be interesting.

And there’s the second type, which could care less–if at all–about how time travel works and instead uses the premise to examine the lives of the characters within the movie, which is the type that takes place in Fetching Cody.

And it works because the two main characters, Art Frankel (Jay Baruchel) and Cody Wesson (Sarah Lind), are interesting enough that you just roll with their situation, despite its outrageousness.

It works on another level as well, which is that for awhile you’re not sure that what Art sees is actually happening or caused by overuse of the various pharmaceuticals he’s ingested.  For awhile this gives the movie an edginess similar to Terry Gilliam‘s The Fisher King, which Fetching Cody could perhaps be called a spiritual cousin to.  

Art and Cody are doing the best they can, which like too many of us isn’t good enough because they’re barely able to keep their heads above water.  Art is for the most part homeless, hasn’t found a pill he wasn’t willing to try and isn’t above hustling to make ends meet.  Cody is similar, though she seems to be into even harder drugs, which is her undoing when she takes something she can’t handle, and falls into a coma.

Heartbroken, Art flounders till he learns that one of his homeless friends has found a time machine that looks suspiciously like a recliner festooned with Christmas lights.

But the thing is, it actually works, but Art uses it not to improve his own life–which could use some enhancing–but instead to find a way to save Cody, no matter the cost.

David Ray’s movie is a fascinating study about the lengths one man is willing to go for the woman that he loves.

Fetching Cody is currently playing on Netflix.

The (Un)necessary Remake Dept: ‘Damnation Alley’

Jack Smight‘s 1977 feature, Damnation Alley is a movie I recall l fondly from when I was growing up.  It’s (very) loosely based upon a novel by Roger Zelazny, and while it’s an entertaining movie, it’s not a particularly good one.

I while I don’t know how the movie was filmed, it feels epic and looks massive (which had a lot to do with the excellent score by Jerry Goldsmith which managed to be bold and at the same time minimal enough that it didn’t take over).

Events take place after a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union.  You’re never told who started the conflict or why, though like W.O.P.R. said, “The only way to win is not to play.”

Unfortunaely for these guys, War Games came out in 1983, so they erred on the side of mutually assured destruction.  The United States is devastated and most of the land reduced to desert, while the sky is irradiated and angry with aurora borealis.

Though on what I assume is the last remaining military installation everything life goes on.  Maj. Eugene Denton (George Peppard) is in command, and is military through and through, while Tanner (Jan-Michael Vincent) and Keegan (Paul Winfield) don’t see the point of playing soldier any longer, so the former spends his time riding about the desert on his motorcycle, dodging giant scorpions (because radiation does nothing else if not create giant versions of things) while the latter  works on a mural.

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Millenium Falcon Footage

Truth be told, I am neither a huge Star Wars fan (beyond the first film and its sequel, The Empire Strikes Back) nor too interested in J.J. Abrams as a director (way too many lens flares).  That being said when video of the Millennium Falcon is posted, you repost it.

Because “when you’re nose to nose with a trash compactor, you cool it.”

Practically Speaking

If you’re a big fan of movies, particularly horror and sci-fi, you’ve probably taken a position on whether or not movies should use CGI (computer-generated imagery) or practical effects (which include prosthetics, animatronics, models and miniatures).

Personally, I am a HUGE fans of practical effects.  That being said, I understand that there are things that you can’t do as well practically as you can do with CGI–for instance if you’ve seen Alex Proyas’ The Crow, there are numerous scenes where cars are moving through city streets that’s clearly part of a miniature cityscape which probably would have worked better with actual cars, unless Proyas deliberately wanted it to look like models–and when it’s done well,  CGI can add a dynamism to scenes that isn’t always possible practically.

On the other side, when you’re dealing with practical effects the actors and actresses are performing against an actual thing, as opposed to (in some instances) a tennis ball.

This means that you’re not only likelier to get a better performance out of them, the scene that they appear in looks more real.

One of my favorite filmmakers, producer Gerry Anderson, was a huge advocate of miniature effects (which probably has a lot to do with him coming from a background of making shows that revolved around puppetry, like Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons, The Thunderbirds, and The Terrahawks) which he incorporated into live action in movies like Doppleganger (also known as Journey to the Far Side of the Sun) and television shows like Space: 1999, UFO and Space Precinct.

In the video clip below Tom Woodruff, Jr and Alec Gillis, of StudioADI, discuss why it is that studios sometimes choose CGI effects over practical ones.  And as usual, nothing is as simple as movie fans would like it to be.

The (Un)necessary Remake Dept: ‘The Stuff’

Let’s be clear:  Larry Cohen‘s The Stuff isn’t anyone would call a good movie, but it is a damn interesting one.  What it has going for it is a timely premise (the idea of consumerism run rampant combined with corporate and government malfeasance) and some very interesting special effects.

The movie plays like a twisted version of Dan Siegel’s Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (speaking of which, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers is one of the few films that has benefitted from multiple remakes; The Invasion, notwithstanding) but with a more culinary bent in that a white substance is found bubbling from the earth, that happens to be edible.  This mysterious foodstuff, marketed as The Stuff, takes the country by storm, making some people very rich.

But there’s a problem.  The company selling it has co-opted the some scientists in the FDA (the Food and Drug Administration), so that no one quite knows what’s in The Stuff, which is a very bad thing because The Stuff is alive.  It’s similar to yogurt, except with a will, and a drive all its own.

In other words, when you eat it, it eats you.

The Stuff Pic

Are you eating The Stuff, or is it eating you?

A possible angle for a reboot could take would make the stuff called ‘The Stuff’ a genetically modified organism (GMO), as opposed to a naturally-occuring one, giving new meaning to the phrase “smart food.”

What needs to remain is the practical nature of the special effects.  There’s something significantly creepy about the mouth of a animatronic head opening wider than humanly possible, as opposed the way such things are typically done with CGI, which more often than not look like a video game (See: I Am Legend).

Since the movie falls apart somewhere around the midway point,  when Paul Sorvino turns up as a disgraced military commander–curiously similar to quite a few Right wing radio hosts–I would chuck that entire subplot and instead concentrate on how futile it it would first seem for people who haven’t been co-opted.

That way, the entire film would focus on the efforts of a disgraced FBI agent working against the odds to unmask the horror of The Stuff.